ispace, a Japan-based private lunar exploration company, announced on 13 December 2017 that it has raised approximately $90.2 million in Series A funding. According to the company, this is the most ever raised by a commercial space company during a Series A round, both in Japan and globally. The investors were the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, Development Bank of Japan, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Konica Minolta, Shimizu, Suzuki Motor, SPARX, Dentsu, Real Tech Fund, KDDI, Japan Airlines, and Toppan Printing.
The company, which aims to commercialize lunar resource development, will use the funding to develop a lunar lander and conduct two lunar missions by the end of 2020. This does not include the efforts of Team Hakuto, Japan’s only entry for the Google Lunar Xprize, which the company is currently managing.
After the Xprize, ispace plans to launch a lunar mission during the fourth quarter of 2019. Known as Mission 1, the aim of the expedition will be to conduct a study of the lunar surface by injecting a lander into lunar orbit. Following that, ispace’s Mission 2, planned for the fourth quarter of 2020, will see the lander attempt a soft landing on the Moon and deploy multiple rovers.
The lunar lander, which will utilize the company’s focus on micro-robotics, will have a payload capacity of 30kg and carry two rovers with a payload capacity of 5kg each. The company plans to lease the remaining space to organizations interested in conducting experiments on the Moon. ispace will also make the data collected commercially available
The two missions will be preliminary steps towards the firm’s final goal of establishing transportation and resource development technology to develop the Moon’s water resources. It envisions that the Moon will see 1,000 inhabitants and 10,000 visitors annually by the year 2040.
“With this funding, ispace will begin the development of lunar lander to establish a flexible and regular lunar transportation system, and lead the exploration and development of lunar surface through micro-robotic systems,” says Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace.
“In addition to our Tokyo Headquarters, we will actively embark on projects at our offices in Luxembourg and USA to lead the global space resource development. With the network and knowledge of our new shareholders, we will not only expand commercial space activities centered around lunar resources, but also create a sustainable living sphere beyond Earth.”